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Flu season off to fast start

Flu usually ramps up at Christmas and spikes at Carnival time, but not this year.

NEW ORLEANS — If you feel achy, with fever, and a sore throat you are not alone. The flu is hitting our area.

And if you are not already vaccinated, now is the time for all ages, especially if you have a chronic health problem, like diabetes, obesity, heart disease or cancer.

Flu usually ramps up at Christmas and spikes at Carnival time, but not this year. This time it's around Halloween.

State Medical Director Dr. Joseph Kanter Twitted this warning: “Fastest start to a US flu season in 10+ yrs, following successive low-impact seasons owing to covid mitigation measures. In Louisiana nearly 1 in 10 ED visits now are for flu symptoms. And about 75% are in people <25 y/o! Is spreading to older ages now.”

“We're seeing a lot more patients than we were just a week ago. There's probably around 10 percent more of people coming in with typical flu symptoms,” said Dr. Ajsa Nikolic, a family medicine physician who is the system chair for urgent care, occupational health, employee health, and student health at Ochsner.

Cases are on the rise at the Ochsner Urgent Care at the lakefront, and also at Ochsner clinics statewide. Excluding Lafayette clinics, the others around the state saw a September positivity rate of 12.7 percent.  By October 24, it had climbed to 30 percent. And the virus is already taking lives.

“Just in the last 30 days, we've had at my office, we've had three deaths from the flu,” said Dr. Gerry Cvitanovich, the coroner of Jefferson parish.

The deaths were one adult and two children.

“For young school age children, it's a pretty strong argument you can make that they are more susceptible to get critically ill, and die from the seasonal flu, than from COVID,” he added.

Dr. Cvitanovich says this year’s vaccine appears to match what's circulating in the community, and if you get flu, the vaccine will lower your risk of getting seriously ill with dangerous complications.

One doctor told us if you didn't get the flu vaccine, but then you got the flu, you should still go get your flu vaccine after you get well. And here's why. You only had one strain, and in the flu vaccine there are four strains. So, this will protect you against the other three that you haven't had.

And seeing loved ones sick is prompting some to get a vaccine now.

“We were giving 10 or 12 a day prior to that. Then all of a sudden once the news hits, and they talk about how serious it's going to be, we were doing 40 or 50 a day,” Al Spitale, a pharmacist at Majoria Drugs in Metairie said.

And if you get the flu, remember you need to get on the prescription antiviral Tamiflu no later than two days after symptoms.

And if you need Tamiflu, you may have to search around at different pharmacies. Right now wholesalers are out of the liquid and capsules.

Ochsner On Call has virtual visits if you don't want to go to an urgent care.

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